Dinuba’s Kashmiri Mayor

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As Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik is publicly excited over a foreign educated young man becoming Srinagar Mayor, a young Kashmir Pandit from south Kashmir has taken over as city father of a Californian City, reports Afreen Amin

Dr Kuldip Thusu

Destinies refuse to get disrupted, and there are cases when disturbances contribute in establishing a growth trajectory. A young Kashmiri Pandit who migrated during the early nineties flew to the USA for studies and eventually became a citizen. Two decades later, he became the Mayor of a Californian city, Dinuba. It is a five-ward city spread over 3.42 sq miles with a population of around 25000 souls.

Dr Kuldip Thusu, who was re-elected as a ward representative for the second time, was later elected as the Mayor in December 2018. Now an American citizen, Dr. Kuldip is the CEO of Universal Bio Pharma Research Institute Inc (UBRI), a local Clinical Research organization, which he took over after heading Alta Family Health Clinic, Inc. Besides, he serves as a member of the California League of Cities Revenue and Taxation Committee and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control.

Thusu has the typical roller coaster story. Born in Anantnag, Thusu was raised in Gadod Bagh, Habba Kadal by his maternal grandfather Dr Jagar Nath Zutshi. He did his schooling from Burn Hall up to the second primary and later shifted to Saint Joseph’s School in Baramulla when his father Peary Lal Thusu, a government employee, was posted there.

Dr. Kuldip said he had developed a keen interest in politics while living with his grandpa. Zutshi had contested the 1972 assembly elections from Haba Kadal constituency on Congress mandate. He finished third.

After Bachelors in Biophysics, Dr. Kuldip did his masters in Biophysics as well as in Clinical Chemistry. Later, he did his doctorate in Experimental Medicine. His accomplishments in clinical research included managing the Department of Medicine and Diabetes – Endocrine Centre of Western New York, at the Millard Fillmore Hospital in Buffalo, New York. He served as the Research Director at The Advanced Biomedical Research Institute also, during which he was published in top-rated international peer-reviewed scientific and medical journals. Besides, he has been party to the development and testing of new and groundbreaking therapeutic treatments through numerous clinical research trials.

Though he had moved to the USA for his studies earlier, his professional journey transformed when he relocated to Central California in the late 1990s. There, he contributed to community development by getting involved in professional and civic activities.

Gradually, the society started recognising his contributions by bestowing on him a series of awards: Trainee Investigator Award by the American Federation of Clinical Research in Biomedicine in Washington in 1996; Health and Harmony Award, a Congressional recognition for gang and crime prevention(2005); in 2007, he was named Tulare Kings Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year; La Campesina Radio and United Farm Workers’ César Chávez Service with a Heart Award (2008); and in 2009, he was the Cinco de Mayo Grand Marshall for the City of Dinuba. A year later, he was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation for Outstanding Dedication and Commitment to Promoting Unity through Diversity by the Indo-American Community Federation. His UBRI got the first five awards for the Child-Friendly Business in 2014.

Eventually, it led him to contest and win a berth in City Council. Opposition apart, he retained his District 4 seat in 2018 and was voted as City Mayor.

As an Indian immigrant who has earned his citizenship, Dr Kuldip is proud to be a new American and has devoted his life to community service. He lives with his wife Dr Kajori Thusu, a neonatologist in California. His son Nandan is an electrical engineer, and his daughter Ashima is pursuing bachelors in Bio-Engineering at the University of Toledo. Thusus’ moved to Dinuba in 1996. They chose the area because it had a health professional shortage.

Despite being continents away, Dr Kuldip says he is not disconnected from Kashmir. He talks in the Kashmiri language because he says it holds importance in his life. He said his family is very fond of Kashmir, especially his children, who love and adore Kashmiri people, culture and cuisine, the Wazwan. His son is fond of cooking Roganjosh. Last time, the family had Harisa, Kuldip announced on Twitter.

“Kashmiri people are the most intelligent but unfortunately they have not been provided access to the better education, resources, and health which could have helped them compete with the world,” Dr Kuldip said on phone. “There is not a day when I don’t think about Kashmir. I miss Kashmir dearly. The quality of life of Kashmiri’s within and outside the valley has been very traumatic. There is a tremendous loss among all segments of society. One life lost or displaced is far too many.”

Dr Kuldip believes that there is a serious need to put a stop on things that are regressive to the future of a progressive, peaceful, sane and sensible society. “I believe our youth in Kashmir can achieve that,” he insisted.

“All stakeholders have to be on the discussion table and everyone has to have the patience and strength to listen to the other side. Resolution is only possible through communication and dialogue,” he said. “I will use every resource that is within the best of my ability to help in any and all possible way.” He said that the onus lies on Kashmiris living within and outside “to rise to the occasion and take the bull by the horn and demand and ensure peace, prosperity and enhanced quality of life.”

Though he misses Kashmir, he is unwilling to return because of turmoil and disturbed situation. However, he said the digital connectivity has a huge potential of reconnecting and bridge building.

Regretting that he is unable to teach and train Kashmiri youth like he trains the youth in California, Dr Kuldip says some situation may emerge when he will do that. He wants to transfer the knowledge that he has acquired. He wants the new generation must get ready to face the future challenge when the requirements of the job would be absolutely different.

Right now, he is planning a telemedicine project in Ladakh. “God willing, I will get it into Kashmir too,” he said.

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